Sunday, December 29, 2013

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

When someone asks that question, they're usually of the opinion that being "Spiritual" is superior to being "Religious".  The actual difference between the two terms is largely dependent on how you define the two words. When someone says, "I'm spiritual rather than religious" they usually mean, "I don't like going to church - I find it too restrictive and if I say I'm spiritual I can take the moral high ground and not feel guilty for skipping services." Another of my favorites is, "I worship God in my head, not in a pew." It's very convenient to keep God in your head where no one can tell whether you are acting consistently with your 'spiritual' beliefs. That way you can change them if being consistent with your beliefs gets uncomfortable in any way. Being spiritual may be a religion of convenience and shifting values, but it's still a religion nonetheless.

According to Webster, religion is simply a set of beliefs or a belief system, if you will. Although the term "religion" usually applies to a system of worship of a supernatural being, it can apply to any organized or even disorganized system of beliefs. Technically atheism is a religion.  The twisted belief system of the KKK is religion at its worst. I've known soldiers whose military training left them with beliefs that were every bit as set in psychological stone as that of any religion going.

We all have a religion whether we want to or not. Even the determination not to have a "religion" is in itself the type of belief system that could be thought to constitute a religion. This makes militant atheists froth at the mouth when I say it, because it interferes with their efforts to cast "religion" as a pejorative term and to use it as the universal bugbear and the cause or all war and strife, conveniently ignoring the fact that it was completely nonreligious avowed atheists who were responsible for hundreds of millions of murders in the 20th century. Ultimately, the either/or choice with respect to being either spiritual or religious is a false choice. Any belief system can start wars or commit genocide including atheism or any other ism, if that is going to be your criteria for what constitutes a religion.

Spiritual people have a religion whether they like it or not, however loosey goosey it may be. A denomination is not strictly a religion. It's an organization with a set of religious beliefsn. You may dislike the organization. You may dislike the organization's set of beliefs (it's religion), but don't confuse the building and it's staff with the belief set any more than you'd confuse the United States with the doofuses that go to Washington DC to try and run things.

Beliefs act as a constant; a measuring stick if you will. The behavior of the denomination or individual church can be measured more or less against those beliefs. The misbehavior of the organization says nothing about the beliefs as to whether they are true or consistent. The blame for organizational misbehavior rests at the door of the individuals who claim the leadership or who are part of the membership who support the misbehavior.

There may be problems within any organization without its making the belief system invalid.  People are people, truth is truth. For those of you, for instance, who have left my church and claim to have gained peace and joy and all that good stuff without us, I have to wonder why you still seem so angry with the church you left and feel the need to trash us with such vehemence. We did not hold you in the church. We let you go with a free heart. Of course, we feel your decision was wrong. Of course, we aren't supportive of your new lifestyle where that lifestyle includes things we think are wrong. If you require us to approve of things we cannot approve of, you are going to be disappointed. We can love and accept you and still disagree with your behavior.

Here's where people who are "ex" anything always get their shorts in a bunch. They reject a belief system, almost always with some animosity, and then want those they left behind to either join them in rejecting their former religion or at least to violate our own consciences in some way in order to show we approve of their choice.

You people ask the impossible. Go with God. We think you made a mistake, sure. But then, don't you think we are wrong too?  For instance, my church believes the end of time is approaching and Christ will come soon. If you don't withdraw yourself from "the world", we believe it will take you down with it.  If you don't believe that, well and good. We'll see how it turns out for all of us. Till then, there's no need to snipe at one another. And by the way, you're welcome back whenever you feel the urge to hang with old friends. Just don't come into our house to trash it. We don't do that to you.  If someone from my church does persecute you, just let me know and I'll chastise them about it for you. God is the great judge, not us. That's as it ought to be.

Yours in Christ,

Tom King
A spiritual religious person
© 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Should Christians Condone Gay Behavior to Prevent Them from Killing Themselves

A recent blog post I read rather vaguely posited that because teens who identify themselves as gay are committing suicide, that it doesn't matter what we believe about homosexuality. Somehow or other, the writer suggested we should do something to insure the kids don't kill themselves.  He referred to a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for performing a gay marriage for his son as an example of the kind of thing the church should not do. The writer seemed to be suggesting that the church should not have defrocked the pastor.

Okay, that's where I begin to have a problem with the whole compassion for gay people thing. It's not that I don't have tons of compassion for these folk. If anybody on the planet is getting a bum deal, it's someone who discovers he or she is homosexual. That's got to be a tough row to hoe, especially if you are a Christian.

Frankly, I don't see what's so hard to understand about this issue.  Sin is sin. The Bible gives an awful lot of clarification on what is and is not wrong to do.  Forget the Old Testament if you wish, but the New Testament touches on the issue as well. The only reason this is a hot button issue is because there is an organized movement in this country to declare homosexuality no longer a sin.

They've already won one major victory.  With the publication of the DSM-3 diagnostic and statistical manual of the American Psychological Association, the APA bowed to gay lobbyists and removed homosexuality from the manual as a mental disorder and has since released several directives that forbid therapists from treating it with the goal of curing the condition. Research into the causes of homosexuality has been thoroughly repressed and currently there is little or no effort to find a way to reverse the condition. The only thing the APA says counselors and physicians should offer in the way of treatment is help "accepting" the condition.  I think that's barbaric. It absolutely destroys any work on finding an effective treatment or cure for the condition. So even if you wanted to be cured, the APA says you can't. It's as if pedophiles were to successfully lobby to take pedophilia out of the DSM and off the law books (which actually has been proposed by organizations like NAMBLA) and then strong-armed the APA to forbid anyone to treat the kids affected by child molesters. I'm not saying having consensual gay sex is the same as molestation, though the line does get fuzzy sometimes. What I do know is that sin is sin and we've all come short.

I don't see where the confusion over how we should treat homosexuals is. Our marching orders from Christ are quite clear. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Case closed. We do it all the time with a wide range of sins. We are constantly saying how all sins are equal and that any one, unforgiven, will keep you out of heaven. The unpardonable sin is the sin we do not want to be forgiven. We have church members who struggle with sins like temper, gossiping, lying, greed and cursing.  We've got folk who run off on their wives, remarry and back they come to church and we welcome them in.

That doesn't make it not a sin to cheat on your wife. Can you get forgiven? Sure. Should you keep on sinning?  Nope.  The Bible's pretty clear. Love the sinner. Bring them to Jesus. That doesn't mean we pretend a sin is not a sin.

If we decide that because it upsets people for us to believe say, gossiping is a sin, then should we come out in favor of it so that gossips don't feel bad about themselves. Should we have a special Sabbath School class just for gossips in which we talk about the gossip lifestyle, exchange info about the best places to gossip and who are the best people to gossip with.  I love my brothers and sisters who have some confusion about their sexuality. I will help them all I can, but I won't encourage them to marry other gay people and to go to gay bars and gay activities to "find someone" with whom to commit what the Bible says is sin. And just for the record, I don't encourage gossips either.

What the gay community is conducting is a kind of blackmail. The gay activists are saying that if we don't toss aside the Biblical prohibition against homosexuality and declare it okay, then they'll quite coming to church and maybe even kill themselves and it will be our fault because we wouldn't say homosexual acts are not a sin.  I, personally, don't think the church or its members should submit to that kind of blackmail. I love my gay friends and acquaintances all entirely without reservation. It doesn't mean I have to change my religious beliefs in order to love them and that is precisely what the LGBT community is asking me to do.

Now if the same folk wanted me to help find a cure or to help them to figure out how to live with their condition without sinning, then I'm there. Just because you have an urge doesn't mean you have to act on it. If my spouse were suddenly be injured or become ill and be unable to engage in sex anymore, my personal desire to keep doing so would not give license to run around on my loved one simply because I had an urge I couldn't fill. Abraham got into all kinds of trouble with that kind of thinking and the Middle East is a hell hole to this day because the children of his two wives can't get along.

It's why God told us we needed to stick with a single spouse of the opposite sex. Anything else is problematic apparently. And I'm not allowed to second guess His commands just because it's inconvenient for me. If I disobey, it's a sin - every sin doing equal damage to my soul. Every sin requires equal forgiveness. None of us gets a pass even if we whine to God and anyone else who will listen that one or the other of the commandments is not 'fair'.

© 2013 by Tom King

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Throw the Bums Out - Why It Won't Work.

Every election that comes around we get mad and threaten to throw the bums out for the good of the nation. The problem is that we talk about it, but never do it and it wouldn't do any good if we did.

All this talk about throwing out the congress and replacing it as though that would do any good is little more than hot air. It wouldn't work. There's only one cure for the bloated, chronically ineffective government we've saddled ourselves with.

We'd have to fire literally millions of government bureaucrats to accomplish such a transformation and that isn't going to happen. Not ever! Bureaucrats are a persistent parasite on the backside of society. They accumulate like barnacles on the bottom of a ship. Over the course of years they become such a huge mass that the ship of state inevitably sinks under the dead weight of too many "officials". It's why even a benign government that starts our lean and effective, inevitably collapses under it's own weight. 

So why don't we do something about it? There's no effective way to rid a society of its bureaucrats. Even if the people realize what's going on and pressure their leaders to do something about it, the politicians will try to solve the problem by first appointing a commission to study the issue and then, "surprise", the commission hires more bureaucrats to study why there are too many bureaucrats.

And if the ship of state does sink, if it blows up or burns down, the bureaucrats will survive, like the proverbial cockroaches after a nuclear holocaust. They will rise from the ashes and seek out new masters to serve them.

Reminds me of what Tolkien said about "fighting the long defeat".

Just One Man's Opinion,

T.W. King

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Women and Men ARE Different. Who'd a Thunk It?

Men (right) tend to be more discreetly wired according to
hemisphere while women tend to be more cross-wired
across the brain's hemispheres. Men are more able to isolate
feelings from logic and action. Women tend to always
be responding to emotional input even when thinking "logically".
Dr. John Yeoman gets a little heat this time out from the PC crowd for asserting in his column on the craft of writing that (prepare to register shock here) MEN AND WOMEN ARE WIRED UP DIFFERENTLY. Of course comedians, Democrats and romance novelists have made whole careers based on that theory, but that doesn't stop the vive le' difference deniers from speaking out.  There is new medical evidence out now that supports what we've known all along. There's a reason we're different in how we think.  Men and women either learn something from this that helps us understand each other better or we shove our collective heads firmly in the sand and go with political ideology over good sense and go on failing to understand each other.

The ability of a woman to write as a man or a man to write women speaks more to the writer's powers of observation, honesty and skill than to to any flaw in your logic, John - no matter how the defenders of political correctitude might wish it. Were there not profound differences between how the sexes are wired up, writing across the great gender divide wouldn't be such a remarkable feat. The most inauthentic fiction you'll ever read is by writers who are either not aware that men and women tend to be wired up rather differently or those who are beating the old "men are no different from women" dead horse for political purposes. A psychological study once tried altering traditional gender attitudes of small children by switching the boys' and girls' stereotypical toys. What they found is that Legos and Army men make lovely doll houses, that soldiers need love too and that, if you bend Barbie at the waist and grab her legs, she makes a passable six-shooter! As you say there are variations along the spectrum, but as with most generalities, the exception simply proves the rule by the mere fact that the exception stands out so sharply against the background generalization.

*  Link to original column:

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Tale of Two Stories - Politics Muddy the Waters As Usual

Todd Starnes - Fox News
Fox News' Todd Starnes posted a story this week about a Georgia School District's censorship of Christmas decorations. At first the school didn't comment. Then Americans United, a Soros-supported liberal group shot back with a story saying Starnes was lying.  Later NBC local station WSAV issued a story deploring how the attack in conservative media was damaging the good work the Bulloch School District was trying to do with regard to religious issues in the school.

Starnes has since appended the school board's statement to the original story.  As I expected the school system doesn't really deny that orders were given to the school teachers regarding what is permissible with regard to Christmas practices in the school. The teacher whose husband wrote the original email upon which the story is based is likely in hot water at any rate.

In their statement, the School District didn't deny charges in detail.
Instead they preferred to limit their reposnse to a statement that they are concerned that the controversy may interfere with the “current open and ongoing discussions that the school system is having with local citizens about religious liberties and expression.” - bureaucrat-speak for "...we're trying to make everyone happy and to avoid being sued."  It's likely the lawyers are now involved and burying anything incriminating as we speak, so it's unlikely the whole story will ever fully come out for good or ill.

Friends accused me of not reading the opposing stories and relying entirely on Fox News. There was no need to be snarky, though it likely gave them some smug sense of satisfaction. Of course I read the AU story.  I also checked the NBC story. After all, a local NBC station is rather more credible as a news source than AU, given AU's rabid leftist leanings.  That said, however, I also read the story with my skepticism intact and the school district's attempts to quell the controversy fall rather short of the mark.  The story is evolving at this point and I'm not sure either version of it is totally accurate whichever end of the political spectrum the writers and protagonists occupy. 

I'm a PR guy in one of my incarnations and I know how NPOs and schools tend to react. At first they refuse to comment and then, after it's too late to correct the initial story, they issue a carefully worded statement that, while truthful, may only tell part of the story (the part that makes them look good). Lawyers usually write them and they only make you look more guilty. Lawyers write statements that are designed to be read aloud in court. They could care less what the public thinks as long as they can win their cases. (That's my little plug for hiring a good PR guy if you are having a newsworthy crisis!)

Saying "no comment" is always a mistake and almost inevitably results in bad press getting out there. Lawyers always tell you not to comment as they have no interest in your reputation, only in winning court cases. You may eventually force a retraction through legal means, but nobody ever reads the retractions so you are left with the original impression in people's minds. It works both ways politically, whether the story is about a conservative or liberal faux pas. I always advise my clients who are dealing with a newsworthy crisis to get out there fast with a statement. Get on camera, on mike and in the print outlets. Issue a press release. Saying "No comment" plays like an admission of guilt and that little note at the end of a breaking story (XYZ school did not respond to requests for verification of this story) doesn't make you look any better to the public.

All that said, "My position is that I, personally, will celebrate Christmas openly whatever anyone says. I'll spend my money where I want, use the Christmas greeting I want and sing the Christmas carols I want.  As to my Seasonal spending practices, currently, my policy is that if I see "Merry Christmas" on a banner hung over one storefront and "Happy Winter Holiday" on the one across the street, I will select the store that brings me the more Christmas cheer.  That is freedom of speech, assembly, expression and trade all rolled into one. Let the market speak.

I would also add, that those in the conservative media who have spoken out on this story should be prepared to make any corrections that might be warranted should the facts be different than at first reported to us.
That is what I am doing in this story - correcting, so far as possible, any mis-reporting of my statements about the original story or any incorrect statements I might have made. If there is anything else, then I'll be sure and report that.  For now, ya'll have yourselves a merry little Christmas.

Just one man's opinion,

© 2013 by Tom King

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Just Who is the Bigot?

Banning Christian religious expression is simply bigotry.
Christmas is coming. Tis the season to be offended. Let the Christmas music begin. Just don't use the world "Christmas" or show any hint of a manger or any carols that actually mention Jesus or his Dad. A Georgia school even took down Christmas cards the kids gave to the teachers and hid them out of sight so the poor innocent children might avoid being offended by seeing the word Christmas or an expression of religious sentiment.

You know, the left makes an awfully big deal about being opposed to bigotry, while tolerating horrendous levels of bigotry within their own ranks toward Christianity. Efforts to express Christian faith, music or traditions anywhere in public are inevitably greeted with showers of lawsuits, injunctions and hate mail seeking to ban such displays because it offends people.

Anyone who is offended is little more than a bigot by definition.  Suppose I objected to the expressions of black culture I hear all the time in public places. Suppose I demanded they be suppressed. Should I get nasty and demand that any mention of Muslim fasts and feasts or of religious expression by Muslims be quashed I'd deserved to be called a bigot. Suppose I was offended by burkhas? Wouldn't that qualify me as a bigot. What if I decided I didn't like all that mariachi music and the celebrations in public parks by Mexican-Americans on Cinco-de-Mayo.  So why are those who are bigoted against the Christian faith allowed to say cruel things, publicly attack the Christian faith and get away with demanding that largely Christian communities forgo public displays and that they be required hide their faith under a bushel where it doesn't offend anyone in schools, public markets and public squares?

Doesn't the fact that you are offended by Christians, sort of define you as a bigot? 

Is the pot calling out the kettle here?

Just one man's opinion,

© 2013 by Tom King